Facing the Void
Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 8, 2015
I’m in that void in between books. Having finished my Author’s Edition of Body Wave (Bad Hair Day Mystery #4) and scheduled it for launch on June 16, I can start thinking about my next project. And so far that’s all I’ve done—think about it. This would be Bad Hair Day #14. It’s a direct sequel to Facials Can Be Fatal that follows Peril by Ponytail, my September release. I’ve set this summer for plotting with writing beginning in the Fall.
All I have at this point is the victim. I also have a possible motive, but whether this ends up a red herring or the actual reason for the crime is yet to be determined. My suspect pool is limited to work colleagues. Who else can I bring in? Did the victim have any interests or extracurricular activities that might have gotten him in trouble?
I won’t know the answers until I do my character development charts. But first, I have to figure out the timelines, because this guy’s background indirectly intersects with my sleuth’s life. So where was she when they first met? What does she know about him?
Another person is involved who has a closer relationship to our intrepid hairstylist. How is this person related to the crime? Is it random, or does this character have secrets of her own that could provide a motive?
And what about the so-called crime? Is it plausible? What could be the course of events that led to the victim’s death? Who else might be involved? This necessitates research. I have to ask an expert in the field.
As you see, all I have are a series of questions. But these are things I must ask myself to start the plot formulating in my head.
And then there’s the Wow factor for me. What can I learn that’s new and interesting? This is what really grabs my interest and gets me excited about a story. The idea can come from a newspaper or magazine article, news broadcast, personal experience, or tidbit of information that crosses my path. Maybe as I’m delving into the characters, it’ll come to me. Meanwhile, my story antennae are alert.
If all else fails, I can explore my Dirt File, where I keep clippings of interesting articles about people’s crimes. Or I could explore my General Research files where I stick items that might inspire me. I’m hoping these actions won’t be necessary. Maybe I’ll get an unexpected visit from the muse who will bring me the right idea. Then the pieces will start to fall into place, and a story will form. I call this the Discovery phase because you are discovering what the story is about.
Plotting a new book is a daunting task, but one every writer faces when he finishes one book and contemplates the next. I can’t wing it like some authors. I need the story plotted out in advance. I’ll write a synopsis before beginning page one. This entire Discovery process can take me from one to three months. Then the hard work of writing begins.
How about you? When does your story brain put the pieces together?
LibraryThing June 1-22
Enter at LibraryThing to win one of two signed ARCs for Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12). Look near bottom: LibraryThing Giveaway
Goodreads Giveaway June 3-14
Enter to win one of two signed paperback copies of Hanging by a Hair (Bad Hair Day Mystery #11)
Booklover’s Bench June 4-18
Enter June 4-18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench
Check out our other features, including a weekly giveaway, while you’re there.